Message Number: YG5906 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Bruce Williams, DVM
Date: 2001-07-29 14:08:00 UTC
Subject: Re: mast cell tumor/enlarged spleen

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., jethorpe@y... wrote:
> I took Julio, my 6 and a half year old ferret to the vet last week
> have a tumor on his back analyzed. The vet scraped a sample of
> the tumor and sent it to the lab. The results he received
> yesterday did not sound good.
> He said that the biopsy revealed a "round cell tumor with
> granules of mast cell." He is concerned that since Julio's spleen
> is larger than it was last year, that the mast cells--which he
> described as cancerous-- have spread to his spleen (Julio has
> had an enlarged spleen for over two years and to be honest, I
> have not noticed it to be any bigger than in the past).
> Most of what the vet said contradicts what I have read about
> ferrets and mast cells (I've not been able to find anything that
> refers to round cell tumors) and am not sure what to do. The vet
> offered four options:
> 1. Remove the tumor under general anesthesia. He would also
> like to take a tissue sample from his spleen to see if the spleen
> is also affected.
> 2. Remove the tumor using a laser. This would only require a
> local anesthetic. He said there's a chance, however, that the
> tumor would grow back.
> 3. Inject Julio with a type of cortisone that has shown to be
> effective in treating mast cells. (I have never heard of this
> treatment.)
> I don't know what to do. Two years ago I took Julio to a different
> vet who performed surgery to remove an adrenal tumor, after an
> ultrasound revealed the presence of a mass. As it turned out,
> there was no tumor; what the vet removed was an enlarged
> lymph node. It took me a long time to get over the guilt of putting
> my pet through an unnecessary surgery and I do not want to do
> the same thing again. I just want what is best for Julio.
> Other than the tumor on his back (which is about the diameter of
> a pencil eraser) he appears to me, at least, to be in good health:
> he eats, plays, etc.
> Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated.

Well, let's start by saying that the mast cell and the spleen are not
related. Mast cell tumors are common benign tumors in ferrets and
can easily be removed. No cortisone shots, please - they don't
work. Simple complete excision will be fine.

Enlarged spleens are common findings in older ferrets and in the vast
majority of cases are benign proliferation of immature blood cells.
An aspirate of the spleen can give you the answer here (100% chance
that it is not metastatic mast cell tumor) and i the spleen is large
enough that it is affecting Julio (how would you like a 40 lb. spleen
to drag around), then it can be safely removed with no ill effects.
You can find out more on splenomegaly at

With kindest regards,

Bruce Williams, DVM